What better day to celebrate eight incredible female adventurers than on March 8, International Women’s Day? These inspirational women fought the odds and conventions of their time to go above and beyond. And you can take that last part quite literally! Plane, boat, bike and even space ship! These women went all over. These ladies will be sure to inspire you.
Nellie Bly (May 5, 1864 – January 27, 1922)
The American Elizabeth Cochran Seaman, better known as Nellie Bly, worked as a journalist and was a true pioneer in her field. Early on it became apparent that Nellie wasn’t afraid of a challenge. In 1887 she launched a new sort of investigative journalism by going undercover in the Women’s Lunatic Asylum in New York and exposing the brutality and neglect going on here. These reports had gotten her wide renown. Two years later, 25 year old Nellie went on a world trip. She had decided to turn the fictional Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne into reality and left New York on a steamer on November 14, 1889. She travelled extremely light, packing only the dress and coat she had on, some changes of underwear and a small bag with toiletry essentials. Her trip took her through France where she actually met the author Jules Verne, the Suez Canal, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, Japan and many more. She travelled by steamships and railroads and arrived back in New York on January 25, 1890. She had set a world record by going around the world in just 72 days!
Annie ‘Londonderry’ Cohen (1870–1947)
Annie Cohen Kopchovsky, or Annie Londonderry as she came to be known, was a Latvian immigrant to the United States and mother to three small children at the time of her achievement in 1894. As part of a wager she had to cycle around the world in a mere 15 months AND earn $5000 (about $135,922 today) along the way as well. By doing this she would fight the Victorian assumptions that women lacked the physical and mental endurance for such an undertaking and that they couldn’t fend for themselves. Passing through Marseille, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Yemen, Nagasaki… Annie arrived back home after 14 months and two weeks on September 12, 1895. She was also able to raise the necessary money by proving herself a brilliant saleswoman and storyteller. She attracted a lot of media attention and was able to sell advertising space on her bike and clothes. She was even paid to change her name to Londonderry by the Londonderry Lithia Spring Water Company of New Hampshire.
Raymonde de Laroche (22 August 1882 – 18 July 1919)
Wilbur and Orville Wright had their first plane up in the air in December 1903. Only a few years later in 1909, during a time when women didn’t even have voting rights, Raymonde de Laroche took off on her very first flight! Quite befittingly the French aspiring pilot received her pilot’s license on March 8, 1910, which is now International Women’s Day. This makes her the first woman ever to become a certified pilot. She competed in flying competitions and even showed off her airplane skills in front of Czar Nicholas II of Russia.
Bessie Coleman (January 26, 1892 – April 30, 1926)
Sticking to aviation, Bessie Coleman became the first ever woman of African-American and Native American descent to hold a pilot license. She worked at the cotton fields in Texas but was also able to study. She quickly picked up an interest in flying but there were no possibilities for African Americans, Native Americans or women to learn how to fly in America. Determined to fulfill her dream, she saved up some cash, went overseas to France and became a licensed pilot in 1921. She didn’t stop her education there however. Back in France she completed an advanced course in aviation as well. Then she travelled to Germany where she was trained by one of the chief pilots of the Fokker Corporation. After all this training she launched her career as a stunt pilot. She quickly gained a reputation as a skilled and daring pilot who would stop at nothing to complete a difficult stunt. Her popularity crossed racial divides as she was highly admired by all.
Amelia Earhart (July 24, 1897; disappeared July 2, 1937)
Amelia Earhart wasn’t the first female pilot, but she is perhaps the most famous. Setting one record after the other, she became one of the legends of her time. She gained international popularity after being only the second person (and first woman) to perform a solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. However she didn’t stop there! She also became the first woman to perform a solo nonstop flight across the U.S.A. from Los Angeles to New Jersey and the first person to perform a solo nonstop flight from Hawaii to the American mainland. When Amelia wasn’t flying a plane, she was either lobbying Congress for aviation legislation, writing about women’s issues or designing (and initially even making) clothes from her own clothing line. Sadly she is also famous for her death which is still a mystery to this day. When she attempted to circumnavigate the globe in 1937 she went missing. There still barely is any evidence surrounding her disappearance.
Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz (15 July 1936 – …)
After all these pilots, it’s time for a sailor! Krystyna Chojnowska-Liskiewicz became the first woman to have sailed solo around the globe in 1976. This means she was alone at sea for a whopping 401 days! She had to do everything herself from preparing her meals to maintaining the boat. She started off in the Canary Islands, sailing to the Caribbean, through the Panama Canal to the Pacific Ocean, across the Indian Ocean, around Africa and back to the Canary Islands. She stated later about this trip: “Grown people should be aware that sometimes life is lonely. But during the trip I was not plagued by loneliness. I was not lonely, but alone. There’s a difference.”
Valentina Tereshkova (6 March 1937 – …)
As time progresses, so does technology. Valentina Tereshkova wasn’t an explorer on earth, but IN SPACE! She had a difficult start in life as her father died in World War II and the family found itself in financial troubles. This also meant Tereshkova only went to school until she was 16. However she kept studying while working at a factory. She also became an avid parachute jumper, which put her on the radar of the Soviet space program as this is an essential skill in a cosmonaut’s descent. Tereshkova left earth on June 16, 1963 making her the very first woman in space. She orbited the earth 48 times before coming back down.
Cassie De Pecol (June 23, 1989 – …)
Last but not least: Cassie De Pecol. Aged only 27, she became the first documented woman and youngest American to visit EVERY country on earth! And as an unintentional achievement, she also made the fastest trip to all 196 sovereign nations of all genders. De Pecol didn’t just do this trip to break records of course. She served as an ambassador for the International Institute of Peace Through Tourism meeting with government dignitaries all over the world. She also promoted sustainable tourism wherever she could. Being in modern times, you can obviously go check out her Instagram to see what her trip was like!
Which story did you find the most inspirational? Let us know in the comments!